Cost, curriculum, and campus amenities all matter when you’re choosing a college. So do job placement rates, faculty, average class size, and many other factors. But future freshmen and their parents might overlook one of the most valuable things a college has to offer: its alumni network. A vibrant network of graduates can be a resource long after you leave campus in terms of networking opportunities, connections to mentors and other professionals, and even news about jobs.
So what makes for a great alumni network? You want a group that’s engaged and willing to lend a hand to fellow alums. Location matters, too, as does your chosen career. Some networks might be especially strong in certain parts of the country or in certain fields. And then there’s sheer numbers. While size isn’t everything when it comes to evaluating a school’s alumni community, it’s definitely a factor.
To find out which schools had the most alumni, we looked at U.S. News & World Report’s list of four-year colleges with the largest enrollment. Then, we researched alumni networks at the 50 biggest U.S. schools on the list. These 15 schools came out on top in terms of sheer number of living alumni.
15. University of Florida
Total living alumni: 415,000+
University of Florida alumni live in all 50 states and more than 150 countries. Notable former Gators include MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Sen. Marco Rubio, author Michael Connelly, and numerous pro athletes.
Next: University of Illinois
14. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Total living alumni: 425,000+
Illinois may be far from Silicon Valley, the state’s flagship campus has graduated many tech leaders, including Max Levchin, one of the co-founders of PayPal; Steve Chen, the co-founder of YouTube; and Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder of Yelp.
Next: University of Wisconsin
13. University of Wisconsin, Madison
Total living alumni: 435,412
About 16,000 of UW Madison’s more than 400,000 alumni have executive management positions, and 1,050 are company CEOs. The school’s graduates include Lee Raymond, the CEO of ExxonMobil; Thomas Falk, the CEO of Kimberly-Clark; and Hugh Jones, the former CEO of Travelocity and current president of Sabre Airline Solutions.
Next: Texas A&M
12. Texas A&M
Total living alumni: 436,000+
Famous former Aggies include current energy secretary and one-time Texas governor Rick Perry, singer Lyle Lovett, and Martin Torrijos, the former president of Panama.
Next: New York University
11. New York University
Total living alumni: 470,000
Many NYU alums pursue careers in the arts, entertainment, and media. Alec Baldwin, Adam Sandler, Martin Scorcese, and Spike Lee all have degrees from the school, as do writers Elizabeth Gilbert and Judy Blume, music exec Clive Davis, model Christy Turlington, and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.
Next: Purdue University
10. Purdue University
Total living alumni: 479,025
Purdue University graduates tend to take flight — literally. Alums of this Indiana school include pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, also known as as the “Hero on the Hudson,” and astronaut Scott Tingle. Overall, nearly two dozen current and former astronauts have graduated from Purdue.
Next: University of Texas, Austin
9. University of Texas, Austin
Total living alumni: 482,000+
Actors Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, director Wes Anderson, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush all graduated from UT Austin.
Next: Rutgers University
8. Rutgers University
Total living alumni: 486,000+
Rutgers has more than 486,000 living alumni, including a number of prominent business leaders. Motorola CEO Greg Brown, Spirit Airlines CEO Robert Fornaro, Avon CEO Sheri McCoy, and Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Steven Temares all attended the school.
Next: University of California, Berkeley
7. University of California, Berkeley
Total living alumni: 499,604
Berkeley’s diverse “wall of fame” includes cartoonist Adrian Tomine; Danae Ringelmann, the founder of IndieGoGo; NPR reporter Tamara Keith; and Patrick Awuah, who founded the first private liberal arts college in Ghana.
Next: Ohio State
6. Ohio State University
Total living alumni: 500,000
Ohio State’s more than 500,000 alumni include Mark Frissora, CEO of Caesars Entertainment; Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands (which owns Victoria’s Secret); and Brett Buerck, CEO of political consulting firm Majority Strategies. It also graduated two current U.S. senators and five current members of Congress.
Next: University of California, Los Angeles
5. University of California, Los Angeles
Total living alumni: 500,000+
As you might expect, plenty of UCLA alumni have made their mark in Hollywood, including director Francis Ford Coppola, actors Tim Robbins and James Franco, and composer John Williams. But the school has produced plenty of other notable graduates. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki are also UCLA alums.
Next: Michigan State
4. Michigan State University
Total living alumni: 552,000
People who graduate from MSU share something in common with Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert; Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of Baby Einstein; and Tom Gores, the billionaire investor and owner of the Detroit Pistons, who are all alums.
Next: University of Michigan
3. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Total living alumni: 575,000
The University of Michigan has one of the biggest alumni networks in the U.S. The school’s musical theater graduates are such a big presence on Broadway there’s even a nickname for them: the “Michigan mafia.” Other notable alumni include Google CEO Larry Page; Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon; Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster; and Richard Lesser, the CEO of Boston Consulting Group.
Next: Indiana University
2. Indiana University
Total living alumni: 650,000+
Businessman Mark Cuban, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, and Irish President Michael Higgins are all Indiana University alums. So are Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins and Oscar-winner Kevin Kline.
Next: Penn State
1. Pennsylvania State University
Total living alumni: 673,000
Penn State has more living alumni than any other school in the U.S. Graduates of the school live in every U.S. state and more than 160 countries. Notable Penn Staters include Nike CEO Mark Parker, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, Good Morning America host Lara Spencer, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.